I vividly remember a sixth form assembly where our deputy head gave his “useless piece of paper” speech. We were approaching the final Christmas of our sixth form - the exciting, and slightly anxious, climax of our secondary education.
To cut his long story short it went like this: “I saw an advert for a dancing qualification - a postal course. You sent the ‘dance school’ a regular payment for six months and, once the final payment had been received, you were issued with your dancing qualification accompanied by a gilded certificate.” As no actual dancing was required to attain this accolade our deputy looked at us gravely, paused threateningly, and said this document would be a… “useless piece of paper”. Adopting an even sterner tone he then drew an analogy between this piece of paper and the certificate we would all be receiving the following August, the one containing our A level results.
As we sat there wondering whether our plan B could be a certified career in dancing we were told firmly to pull our fingers out - the point of his pep talk.
I was reminded of our deputy’s inspiring words last week when I received a piece of paper from a pension provider with whom I am fortunate to have a preserved DB pension
I am 53 years old and left the scheme some 22 years ago and had requested an idea of what my revalued pension currently stood at, so I could make some calculations for my own financial planning.
What I received instead was my pensionable salary at the point I left the scheme - over 22 years ago. It was technically correct, but utterly useless. On querying it I was told they could not provide me with the information I wanted - my pensionable salary from nigh on a quarter of a century ago was all I could have (as an aside this was a number I already knew, so, not only was it useless, it lacked originality or surprise)..
Having worked in the industry for over 30 years I could probably have a crack at estimating the number myself but it should not be like this. What about the vast majority who don’t? Until this industry stops churning out useless pieces of paper it will continue to struggle with trust and engagement.
To all fellow organisations and individuals who, like Money Alive strive to make communication between financial service providers and their customers (who let us not forget, are sovereign) better, I say crack on! Let’s put an end to these useless pieces of paper - there is work to be done.